Your online orders cannot currently be placed through your PGW Customer Account Web login. Please contact our online support team for more information.

Young Viticulturist Award regional winners

Young Viticulturist of The Year trip to Hawke's Bay apple orchard

Young Viticulturist Award regional winners

Fruitfed Supplies has backed the Young Viticulturist of the Year competition since its inception in 2005. The partnership involves the commercial sponsorship as well as event support, helping organise and run the six regional competitions.

Each year, the previous year’s regional winners get to participate in an educational and networking programme, with the team at Fruitfed Supplies Hastings offering to host the 2023 regional winners.

“Locally, we have a strong and beneficial connection with the Young Viticulturist competition,” says Jeremy Darby, Fruitfed Supplies’ Hawke’s Bay Area Sales Manager. “Andrew McNeil, one of our senior Technical Horticultural Representatives (THRs), is a long-standing and valued member of the Hawke’s Bay Young Viticulturist organising committee working alongside former winner and national co-ordinator Emma Taylor. These two, and others, have been key driving forces behind the success and growth of the Young Viticulturist, regionally and nationally, over many years.”

Jonny La Trobe, another of the Hawke’s Bay THRs, won the local Young Vit title in 2012 when he was a Vineyard Manager for Sacred Hill. He says that putting himself forward for the competition helped him personally and professionally.

Andrew and Jonny were keen to create an outstanding educational trip for the 2023 Young Viticulturist regional winners who are: Tai Nelson from Soljiens Estate, Auckland/Northland and 2023 National winner; Nick Putt from Craggy Range, Hawke’s Bay; Annika Salenjus from Craggy Range, Martinborough; Zac Howell from Indevin, Marlborough; Tristan van Schalkwyk from The Bone Line, North Canterbury; and Nina Downer from Felton Road, Central Otago. Nicky Grandorge, Leadership & Communities Manager at New Zealand Winegrowers who manages the Young Viticulturist competition also joined the regional winners.

Andrew and Jonny say they came up with a theme of cross-pollination for the trip which incorporated visits with other primary producers outside of viticulture who have shown innovation, adaptation, and improvement.

But, first, the group enjoyed a bespoke trip to Cape Kidnapper’s to visit the gannets and observe the unique rock layers and structures of the peninsula. Jonny says: “Special thanks to Cameron Price at Indevin who helped organise two six-seater side-by-sides so we could take our Young Vit team safely around the cape before high tide.”

The following day, they headed to Freshco’s Dartmoor block where Orchard Manager Richard Smith talked about their high density planting. “It’s common to see high density planting in viticulture with 6,000 to 8,000 vines per hectare, but it’s not as common in apples. At this Freshco orchard, they have planted 11,000 trees per hectare so Richard talked us through this production method, as well as their recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle.”

A visit to Apatu Farms Ltd was hosted by General Manager Tim Agnew who covered the diversity of Apatu’s operations, from their modest start as vegetable growers to the present day where they grow rights-protected apples, grapes, onions, and squash while continuing to supply the local processors with beetroot, tomatoes and corn. 

“We also spoke with Mark Pinker, who manages Apatu’s Korokipo and Ohiti Vineyards, who detailed the severity of the cyclone damage on these sites. This year’s crop was looking great considering it had been under five to six metres of water during the storm.”

Next up was a visit to Freshco’s new apple packhouse where Greig Taylor showed the group the new state-of-the-art robotic technology. The packhouse was fully operational with their recent start to the harvest and packing of Breeze apples. “It was particularly interesting to track the apples from the field through to the packhouse and observe how the adoption of technology within the packhouse increases both efficiency and quality.”

Another field visit followed, this time to Heinz Wattie’s where they were preparing to begin their tomato harvest. Jonny says: “We met with Caleb Burbury, their tomato Agronomist, where we discussed the process of field tomato production in New Zealand and the obstacles of being a relatively minor crop. He talked about their large, tracked gondola harvesters which minimise field compaction. These were also used after Cyclone Gabrielle to help a local vineyard producer get their crop out of an isolated area due to destroyed bridges.”

Last visit for that day was to Plant and Food Research where the group had a presentation from Luke Merson, Business Development Manager for the Plant Varieties Team and Dr Richard Volz. They covered developing new apple and plant varieties and the legal frameworks behind the process of licensing and growing proprietary apples all around the world. Jonny notes they were keenly interested in hearing about the next exciting variety. “We look forward to seeing it in the market in years to come.”

The day wrapped up with a fantastic meal and local wines hosted by Cameron and Amanda Price, with the added bonus of catching up with several Young Viticulturist alumni including Paul Robinson and Sam Bain of Indevin.

The following morning saw the group meet with Jon Peet, Fruitfed Supplies’ Technical Specialist – Viticulture at one of Fruitfed’s many trial sites. Jon talked about how and why the Fruitfed Supplies Research and Development team do their own independent research to validate data and how they also partner with industry bodies such as the Bragato Research Institute. 

Wrapping up the Young Viticulturist regional finalists’ tour of the Hawke’s Bay was a visit to Berry Farms in Bayview, where they specialise in producing raspberries, strawberries and blackberries undercover.

Nicky Grandorge says: “Everyone enjoyed these two really interesting days, learning lots from other horticultural sectors in Hawke’s Bay as well as visiting some of Fruitfed’s vineyard trials. A huge thank you to Andrew McNeil, Jonny La Trobe and the Fruitfed Supplies team for organising such a great visit, and thank you also to Amanda and Cameron Price for hosting everyone for dinner and to the other Young Vit alumni who helped with lifts and other visits. All round, an excellent and productive educational and networking trip for our 2023 regional winners.”